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The Polish Middle Class


Henryk Domański

This book discusses the viability of «importing» the middle class to Poland. The 1990s were a step forward in the formation of the Polish middle class and, systematically yet barely discernible in daily life, the process was triggered by an increase in consumption and affluence. However, the changes of attitudes, life goals and value systems distinct for the Western middle class are ambiguous and rather slow in Poland. They ensue mainly from the changes in new social structures and the behavioral rationality of consumers. It appears that the middle class in Poland will not emerge as an exact copy of the original middle class – rather, it will be its contextually modified variant, affected by Polish cultural traditions.
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Chapter II: Consumption, Affluence, New Style and New Structures


It matters not how straight the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley, “Invictus”

The main indicators of middle class status are: ownership, a good job, affluence and life style.

Ownership is the foundation of middle-class society. Having a business, capital or rare expert qualifications demanded by the labour market makes a difference – owners are inclined to regard their efforts and look to the future with greater confidence and self-reliance. In big cities, traffic jams have become an unanticipated offshoot of the development of the market society: driving downtown along Wybrzeże Gdańskie (a street in Warsaw), one can experience a sense of community with other car owners. Endorsement of the same rules and affinity of beliefs are distinctive traits of the specific category assembling owners of vehicles, houses and apartments, means of production, commodities and other forms of property – ownership as such does not make them a separate “class,” but it definitely singles them out from other social categories. Nothing comes anywhere near ownership in terms of motivating effort, hard work and investments in self-development. And few things offer gratification matching that of a growing banking account and occupational advancement. So far, no better way has been invented to instil self-discipline, belief in stability, regard for the social order, support for democracy and commitment to orderliness. People who own something feel free and...

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